Ravens DC shared Bill Belichick’s famous words of wisdom with safety DeShon Elliott
The sudden but not shocking release of seven-time Pro Bowl and future Hall of Fame safety Earl Thomas by the Baltimore Ravens last week cleared a pathway for DeShon Elliott, a sixth-round pick out of Texas in 2018, to ascend into a starting role. He spent the majority of his first two seasons on injured reserve but even when he was healthy for six games last year, he was sitting behind a pair of established veterans.
From coaching staff to the players on the roster, the team is excited to see what Elliott can with extensive playing time for the first time in his career and have expressed their utmost confidence in his ability to perform at a high level once the regular season rolls around in less than two weeks.
Going from primary backup and reserve player that mostly plays special teams and only come in on defense in certain packages to a full-time starter can be an exhilarating opportunity for a young player eager to prove himself and reward the team’s confidence in entrusting such a responsibility to him.
However, that can sometimes lead to that player either pressing too much to make plays in games and end up out of position, taking a bad angle because they were overly aggressive, or blowing an assignment resulting in a big play of conversion for the opposition because they guessed wrong or wanted to make a play instead letting it come to them.
On the other hand, that could also lead to a player playing timid or overly cautious to ensure that they don’t make a mistake big or small. While it’s okay to play it safe, Ravens Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale doesn’t limit or restrict his players to the confines of his scheme and actually encourages to play with a bit more free-range than the average coach in his position.
Martindale wants his players, especially his starters, to play free and with an edge but not undisciplined. He understands that is an exciting new role that Elliott will be embracing but he also wants his new starting safety to play disciplined football and not be too aggressive when the real action starts. He recently shared some wise words with him including a phrase that a certain hooded head coach in the northeast made famous a few years back.
“The thing that I was just talking to him about out there today was, ‘Just do your job. You don’t have to do anything extra and the plays will come to you,'” Martindale said Monday. “I thought he did a nice job. One of the things he wanted to work on was his angles to the football, and he did a really nice job with that Saturday.”
The phrase “Just do your job” is one of the oldest football clichés that’s been around since the dawn of the sport that even peewee level coaches teach their overzealous youngsters that just want to fly around, run into each other and score touchdowns.
In 2014, New England Patriots future Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Belichick made it famous or infamous if you were a fan of the other 31 teams in the league. He turned it into a mantra that year that his team used to turn their season around and drive them in their pursuit of the fourth Superbowl tile in franchise history after going a decade without winning one despite making two trips in between in 2008 and 2011 where they lost to the New York Giants both times.
In the video clip from that season that went viral where he uttered the words that are probably printed on thousands of t-shirts and bumper stickers in the New England area, Belichick was addressing his defense and instructing them to just do what they already know to do and let the game come to them instead of trying to play outside themselves and putting the entire unit in a compromising position.
To quote another cliché, this time from a fictional comic book character and not arguably the greatest coach in NFL history “With great power comes great responsibility”. While Elliott hasn’t been endowed with superpowers from a radioactive spider bite, he has been given the opportunity to show just how disruptive he can be on defense now that he’s a starter.
Even though he can’t climb walls or swing from webs, he does have sticky fingers and a nose for the ball. In college, he hauled in nine interceptions, forced three fumbles, and scored a pair of touchdowns for the Longhorns. His best year came in his junior when he played a career-high 12 games and recorded all three of his forced fumbles, nine of his 13 career pass breakups, six of his nine career interceptions, and scored both of his career scores off of two of those picks.
He’s showed flashes of being that same kind of ball hawk at the pro level in training camp, during the preseason and in the limited regular-season action he did receive. He did appear poised to assume a larger role on defense last year when Tony Jefferson went down until he was lost for the year with a season-ending knee injury of his own.
Martindale doesn’t believe that his limited experience in the regular season or checkered injury history in his first two years will hinder him going forward. He believes that he’s back to his old playmaking self and is ready to take his game to the next level this year.
“You know, the injuries were really freak injuries that he had before,” Martindale said. “He was on track to have a really good year last year before he got banged up. So, he’s just taken another step forward.”
Elliott already has a great rapport with his fellow starting safety Chuck Clark who will be helping him police the backend of the Ravens secondary that is still arguably the league’s best minus Thomas because of the tremendous depth that they have from top to bottom.
The trust and communication between the two will allow them to play freely and not worry about not being on the same page because they are so in tune with one another. Their friendship dating back to their backup days will only help Elliott ‘do his job’ better and enable him to be the game-changing playmaker that the team and most certainly he himself envisions that he can be in 2020 and beyond.